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ALTERED EARTH: Arles, City of Moving Images
Doug Aitken

Doug Aitken’s ALTERED EARTH touches some of the core questions of our time in relation to art as well as to our digital age. It comprises distinct but interrelated elements, a contemporary earth-work, an installation of moving images and sound that is site-specific to the topography of the Camargue area around Arles and an iPad application that can be downloaded anywhere, allowing the artwork the potential for ubiquity.

The exhibition opened with a performance by Californian composer Terry Riley. An unprecedented live, one-hour, performance merged experimental music and contemporary art within Aitken’s ALTERED EARTH installation. Terry Riley created an original composition, which was performed live one time only, offering a night of sound and vision.

Since the 1990s, Aitken has brought to video installation the extraordinary possibility for non-linear experience through immersive multi-screen environments. This kind of liquid architecture is used for the video projections in Arles, which feature sequences that are neither wholly documentary nor purely fictional, developed from the characteristics of the local environment. By moving around the origami-like installation and seeing it in different configurations, viewers can construct their own narratives from what they see on the screens.

The app creates new links between these parts, allowing users to move from screen to screen, changing the course of the narrative continuously. Interesting tensions emerge between the representation of a far-away geography and the different layers of fiction in the artwork. With this work, Aitken offers a new notion of the term “site-specific,” reflecting our relation to local and global geography in the digital age and creating a new kind of map.

Video : Doug Aitken’s ALTERED EARTH